At best Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid is an obscurantist. Whenever he has opened his mouth in public, he has only caused unnecessary controversies. And the position that he took on the Peshawar tragedy in which more than 140 students and their teachers were massacred by a bunch of heartless criminals was callously insensitive. His refusal to condemn the barbaric act naturally infuriated the public at large and the protest by civil society in front of the mosque is more than justified.
This makes him into an apologist of the terrorists and some may even count him as one of them because it is positions such as he has taken that keeps encouraging this group of misled ‘mullahs’ into committing such bloodbaths again and again with impunity. Indeed, he represents a mindset that needs to be tackled urgently before the cancer eats into the vitals of our nationhood. The registration of a First Information Report against him is also more than justified. And it was indeed reassuring to see almost the entire political spectrum represented at the protest rally against Maulana Aziz.
The Lal Masjid has a history of its own. It was being managed by the Maulana and his brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi since January 2006. They also ran the adjacent Jamia Hafsa madrassa. The brothers advocated the imposition of Sharia in the country. During the following year and a half, the 5,000-strong, fully armed dwellers of the mosque were openly calling for the overthrow of the government. After all attempts to resolve the matter peacefully had failed, the army stormed the mosque on July 11, 2007. The operation caused 154 deaths and 50 militants were captured. The military operation prompted pro-Taliban rebels to break the 10-month old peace accord with the government and take up arms once again and since then, terror attacks by these militants, self-styled as the TTP, on civilians and armed forces, have taken a toll of more than 50,000 people, including at least about 10,000 troops.
What, however, was never explained by those who ought to know what was going on, at least in the country’s capital, especially how it was possible for 5,000 persons, many of whom were foreigners, to disappear into the mosque without the knowledge of the state apparatus and various departments whose job it is to deal with such elements and whose offices are located in the capital too, not too far from the Lal Masjid itself.
The military operation currently going on in North Waziristan is expected to tame the TTP to a great extent. Also, the lifting of the moratorium on hanging is likely to serve as an effective deterrent. What, however, is needed to be undertaken with all the earnestness at our command is a campaign designed to change the polluted mindset of those who draw their inspiration from a distorted version of religion. This is an uphill task. To start with, we should revisit our school and college syllabus, especially our history and social studies books and those who sow the seeds of hatred, promote fanaticism, sectarianism, bigotry and intolerance. All hate materials should be proscribed urgently. All madrassas should be brought under the direct control of the provincial education ministries and all foreign sources of funding of these madrassas should be stopped forthwith and at the same time all militant and sectarian organisations, especially the Punjabi Taliban, should be uprooted immediately. Next, we should try to retrain our teachers to make them understand the damage that they cause to the young minds by imbibing them with a distorted version of religion. The same goes for the civil servants, the police, the armed forces, the judiciary, the lawyers and the media. In order for all these institutions to get rid of the mindset that has contaminated the minds of a good number of their members, civil society and the political parties must keep building continuous pressure from public platforms on these institutions.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2014.